WASHINGTON BUREAU — A Senate panel’s proposed long term care services entitlement program is misleading, the American Council of Life Insurers argues.

The proposed LTC program “will not adequately protect Americans who are truly in need of long-term care,” ACLI President Frank Keating writes in a letter sent to Senate leaders and to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The ACLI, Washington, is opposing HELP Committee efforts to send the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act, or CLASS Act, to the Senate floor.

“We are concerned about the confusion that would be created by offering a government-sponsored long-term care program,” Keating writes in the ACLI letter.

Passing the CLASS Act would give Americans a false sense of security about LTC needs, Keating warns.

The CLASS Act makes up Section 191 of the Affordable Health Choices Act, the Kennedy-Dodd health bill draft.

The provision would create an optional LTC program that would pay a minimum benefit of $50 per day.

To qualify for benefits, an enrollee would have to pay premiums for at least 5 years. A successful claimant would have to be unable to perform “at least 2 or 3 activities of daily living,” drafters say. Workers who wanted to avoid paying the premiums could opt out of the program.

The average premium would be limited to $65 per month in 2011 and indexed for inflation in later years.

In response to Republican prodding, the HELP panel amended the proposed act during a markup Tuesday. The revision would require the HHS secretary to make annual adjustments to the program’s premium and benefit amounts to ensure the program’s solvency over the long term.

The CLASS Act proposal has the support of the Obama administration. Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of the Health and Human Services, has sent the HELP Committee a letter backing the proposal.

Keating is questioning the adequacy of the proposed CLASS program benefits.

With the cost of nursing home care currently averaging $75,000 per year and home health services running as high as $46 per hour, “the daily benefit of $50 under the CLASS program would not be nearly enough to cover the cost of a full day of these services,” Keating warns.

In addition, he says, “the false sense of security created by $50 per day of inadequate coverage will cause people who can and should plan ahead for their long-term care needs not to take appropriate action.”